A modern well done cyberpunk movie, setting a cornerstone for all sci-fi.
First two disclaimers:
I have not yet seen the original anime edition Ghost in the Shell (however the blu ray disc is lying in my movies-to-be-seen pile), and I have never read the original manga which this movie is based upon. My review therefore only reflects my opinion of this particular edition of the story, without any reference to the originals.
I am a huge Scarlett Johansson fan. Any movie she is part of instantly gets my highest praise. This might have clouded judgement slightly when rating the movie.
Further to this, I will try to avoid any serious spoilers in my review for those of you who have not seen the movie yet. While this might be a nice thing to do, it also makes my job significantly harder, as this the development of the plot for this particular movie seriously affects how you perceive the movie.
Having stated all these disclaimers, this is actually really a great movie! I am no expert on Japanese anime, but the companion I went to the theater with absolutely is, and as far as I understood, it is not the direct on-screen action, that drives the plot, and the story in itself does not have to be all that strong either. Instead you are captured and gently let through the entire movie by the mood and and sensual input alone. Now despite this edition having a somewhat Hollywood touch about, you absolutely have a sense of this very special anime way of telling you a story. For me this was a great experience, but if you are expecting the classic Hollywood action driven story-mode, where each and every scene has a purpose and is driving you toward the finale, I could imagine that you might have a different opinion.
The choice of Scarlett Johansson as Major has been subject to a lot of critique, but my bet is that we are an even larger (and somewhat more quiet) group of fans, who really enjoyed it. There is the talk of Hollywood “white-washing” all kinds of movies. Well… why should they not? If the movie sells and they have a vision and available talent, why not use it? Various Asian movie companies does absolutely the same with remakes of great Hollywood or European movies, where they are applying local Asian acting talents. Furthermore, the choice of a white woman for the role is actually handled as part of the plot, and I think it works rather well.
Anyway... Scarlett is really brilliant in this role. She has the talent for the drama required to understand the complex life of Major and what goes on in her mind, while still being able to do some kick-ass action. We have seen her doing this numerous times now. Fantastic!
I was quite excited to see how Pilou Asbæk would handle his part as Batou, and I must say that I was very impressed. He had the potential to play a classic brawny big bully, but he actually manages to bring so much more to this character. Very well done!
Takeshi Kitano is a classic person in this kind of movie and it made perfect sense to cast him in the role as they did. There is no way around this guy and he did a great job. Also his character was the only major part that kept talking japanese all the way through the movie.
I love cyberpunk. Making this dystopian still come to life on the big screen without making it shallow or tacky takes talent, and they have really nailed it here. The matrix, the hacking, the pollution, the infrastructure, the filth in the streets. I all worked well.
The CGI applied to these cyborgs is really top notch. It is also to a level where you have to remind yourself that this stuff it not real. That is so immensely important in a movie like this, and for me they really hit the nail right on the head.
Unfortunately I am not able to compare this edition with the original anime yet, but looking isolated at this movie, I was really very well entertained. It had several of the aspects that I love in a movie, including Scarlett Johansson, and everything just felt like it was done right. If this does not become available on my current streaming service provider, I will absolutely buy the BluRay edition and watch it again on my home theater system. It has got my full recommendation for any sci-fi, cyberpunk and action fan.